Long distance running can be challenging, especially if you are new to running.
Will you really be able to run that far? What if you get hurt?
What if you have to walk?
It can be daunting, taking that first step, but it doesn’t have to be!
With a little planning, you can easily step out that door and finish your first of many long runs.
No long term conditioning or crazy skills required!
All you need is the will – and a few painless tips – that can make long distance running instantly easier for you.
So, let’s get started!
1. Run in a Group
Long distance running is all mental.
If you’ve never run long before, consider running with a group of other runners, or with a friend.
While running in a group or with a partner may not make it physically easier to finish the run, it can certainly help mentally.
There’s no doubt it’s physically hard to run long, but it is even harder mentally. Especially if you are a naturally pessimistic person.
Pounding out those miles is so much easier when you have a friend to do it with. A friend will help keep you motivated and hold you accountable. If you opt to run alone, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of your long run.
But if you are running with a group or with a friend, suddenly it’s harder to back out! Saving face can be a great motivator.
And when you run with friends, the miles go by faster. You can talk while you run. This makes your long run more enjoyable, but it is also a good distractor.
You are having fun with your friends, so you don’t even realize you’ve already racked up three miles!
Before you know it, the run is done, and you never once dwelled on how hard it was.
Don’t have a running buddy and not sure where to find one?
Check out Facebook or other social media platforms. Join some local runner’s groups. You can find them online, at the gym or even at your favorite running store.
2. Invest in Good Sneakers
Running requires very little equipment, when you really think about it. It isn’t a sport that requires a huge investment to get started, like golf or hockey would.
But a good pair of running shoes is a must.
If you are a new runner, you might think a shoe is a shoe is a shoe. But trust me, not all shoes are created equal.
And while you may not notice this on the shorter distances, those long runs will definitely drive the point home.
A good pair of shoes can:
- make your long run more comfortable
- help you to run just a bit faster
- cut down on the risk of injury
Look for a lightweight, cushioned shoe. Your legs will tire out faster if your shoe is heavy, and you will feel every pebble if you don’t have enough padding.
A bad or worn out pair of shoes can cause blisters, shin splints, and ankle rolls. And if it doesn’t fit right, you can get runner’s toe – the tip of your toenail can literally turn black.
So, while you may not need much, you do need to invest in a good pair of running shoes, meant for long distances.
3. Wear a Runner’s Watch
If you can, invest in a runner’s watch.
Smart phones are great – they have runner’s apps that make tracking your miles, route and pace easy. And they are better than nothing at all.
But, when you bring your phone, you have to carry it. Somewhere. And yes, you can strap it on your arm or put it in a belt.
But then you have to manipulate it, and that gets tricky, when it’s strapped to your arm or tucked away.
Your watch is right on your wrist. Super easy to start, stop or adjust.
There are many different watches to choose from, such as Garmin, Fitbit and Apple watches.
A watch can easily help you to properly keep track of your running pace and make sure you stay consistent. This way, you don’t accidently over-exert yourself in the beginning of the run!
Starting off too fast can make it hard to finish the run.
4. Set a Goal
When running long, you should have a goal in mind.
Are you training for a race? Trying to build up mileage? Adding more miles for better weight loss?
What is the goal of your long run?
Setting goals for these long runs will motivate you to run. If you have no reason to run, it’s easy to duck out or cut it short.
There’s no need to finish, then.
Having a goal in mind can really push you to finish those long, tiresome runs, because it gives you something to strive for.
5. Create Mental Checkpoints
Running long distance is hard on your head. So, it helps to create mental check points.
A mental check point is kind of like a check point in a video game – once you hit that check point, you accomplished something huge and can save your game!
Think of your runs like that too. Break your long distance run down into smaller chunks. Depending on how far you run, these can be half miles or full mile check points.
Then, focus on reaching the next check point.
Once you reach it, reward yourself somehow!
You can’t save your game, of course, but you can, say, grab a sip of water, check your pace or take a quick breather.
Or you can play mental games with yourself. Each check point can represent something big you want to achieve in your life.
Hit mile marker one? You just paid down your Master Card! Hit mile marker two and you finally lost those last five pounds!
At mile marker three you worked up the nerve to talk to that girl down at the supermarket – you know, the one that you want to be the mother of your children.
These games may seem a bit silly written out, but when you are exhausted and wondering how you are going to make it through to the next check point, they can motivate you to keep running.
At the very least, they can keep you entertained all the way through to the last mile.
6. Warm-up and Cool-down
Don’t skip your warmup or cool down just because you are running long distance.
A good warm up will help get the blood flowing and loosen up those muscles, joints, and bones. A warmup gradually brings your heart rate up, making it easier to get into a good running rhythm.
It not only helps prep your body for the workout ahead, but it also helps you to finish the run strong.
This can really make a difference in your run, especially early on.
And cooling down after your run helps your body to flush out the lactic acid faster. This helps to reduce recovery time and the chance of injury, not just for this run, but for all of your future runs as well.
7. Keep Proper Running Posture
Using proper running form makes your body move more efficiently.
This is important for energy exertion.
If you don’t use proper running form, your body doesn’t move proficiently. You might have jerky or awkward movements. This requires more energy from you, to cover the same distance.
Perfecting your form allows for better ease of movement. Your body can run the same miles more efficiently because it doesn’t take as much energy to move as it would if you had awkward form.
Now, amazing posture while running does take time to develop. Breaking old habits is hard. But really, it usually only takes a few minor adjustments, to have decent running posture.
Here are three simple adjustments you can make:
- look forward (instead of at the ground)
- stand up straight (don’t hunch over)
- relax your body (don’t tense up your arms or clench your fists)
A long run is a perfect place to practice proper running form. You have plenty of time to slow it down and really concentrate on your posture.
8. Don’t Eat Before Running
Yes, eating before you run is good. Eating provides the necessary fuel you need to finish your run.
But don’t eat right before you run. Eating too soon before your run can cause more harm than good. If you eat too much, too soon, you risk stomach cramps.
Stomach cramps will cut your run short.
Instead, eat two to four hours before you run. If you are running right away in the morning, eat a good healthy meal the night before, and have a cup of juice or a banana in the morning.
9. Keep Hydrated
Staying hydrated keeps you energized. You will not tire out as quickly if you drink enough fluids before, during and after your run.
Water regulates our body temperature, so it is especially important to stay hydrated on hot, long runs.
Other benefits of adequate hydration include:
- better waste removal
- reduced risk of injury
- reduced cramping
- improved recovery time
If you drink enough water, you can maximize your performance and finish strong.
Cross training is so important for runners – I can’t talk about it enough! It is especially beneficial to long distance running.
Cross training strengthens your muscles, reduces your risk of injury and allows you to train for longer distances without having to worry about over training.
If you are new to cross training, check out this post: 4 Exercises of Cross Training for Runners that Actually Help.
If you are ready to add on long runs, you need to start cross training as well, if you aren’t already doing so.
Long distance running doesn’t have to be daunting! It can be exhilarating. You just can’t beat that feeling of accomplishment at the end of a long run.
So, if you are ready to go long, take the time to set yourself up for success.
Remember to invest in a good pair of shoes and a running watch, if you don’t have one.
Find a running buddy. Running long is more of a mental game than you might expect, so be prepared to distract yourself from the negative thoughts that can creep in.
Set check points and run with a goal in mind. Both will keep you motivated.
Keep yourself properly hydrated, don’t eat before you run, and use proper running form. Also, don’t skip your warmup or cool down. Your performance will suffer.
And finally, don’t overlook cross training. It can make or break your run.
Not just anyone can get up and pound out five miles, you know! Finishing a long run – that is something to be proud of.
So, get running! You’ve got this!